Kristen Bell And Jenny Slate Explain Why They Will No Longer Voice Their Mixed-Race Characters On 'Central Park' And 'Big Mouth'
Two popular animated series will have to recast their non-White characters after their celebrity voices decided to leave the shows.
Actors Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate decided to stop voicing their mixed-race characters on Central Park and Big Mouth, respectively, to clear the way for non-White actors to take the roles.
Jenny Slate will leave the role of Big Mouth's Missy, who is half-Jewish and biracial and has been lauded as a sensitive portrayal of a sweet, nerdy Black girl in media.
Slate announced her decision yesterday in an Instagram post.
In her post, Slate explained her reasoning both for taking the role in the first place and for leaving it.
"At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and White — as am I."
"But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people."
Slate went on to say that her decision is part of a wider effort to better understand and fight against White supremacy.
"I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of White privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal White supremacy, and that in me playing Missy, I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people."
"Ending my portrayal of Missy is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions."
Likewise, Kristen Bell will be exiting the Apple+ series Central Park, an animated musical comedy in which she plays a mixed race girl named Molly.
She announced her decision in a tweet yesterday.
This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Heres 1 of mine. Playing the Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed race character w/a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience. pic.twitter.com/8AL8m4K7Uk
— Kristen Bell (@KristenBell) June 25, 2020
Similarly to Slate, in her tweet Bell called her decision to take the role of Molly "an act of complicity" with White supremacy.
"This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Heres 1 of mine. Playing the Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege."
"Casting a mixed race character w/a White actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience."
In a follow-up tweet, Bell went on to say:
"I am happy to relinquish this role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal and I will commit to learning, growing and doing my part for equality and inclusion."
Bell also included a statement from the series' team of producers, Loren Bouchard, Josh Gad, Nora Smith, Halsted Sullivan and Sanjay Shah, which went into more detail about the decision.
"...after reflection, Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognizes that the casting of the character of Molly is an opportunity to get representation right — to cast a Black or mixed race actress and give Molly a voice that resonates with all of the nuance and experiences of the character as we've drawn her..."
"...our show will be better for respecting the nuances and complexity around the issue of representation and trying to get it right."
On Twitter, many people praised both actresses for their personal decisions.
this always made me feel hella weird. the voice was hilarious, but Missy should be played by a black person. good on Jenny. https://t.co/i7ake5vWHL
— Roman Wellington Banks (@romanwbanks) June 25, 2020
Big decisions by Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell to step down from voicing black animated characters for the roles to be filled by actual black. Much respect them b/c it's much easier for a white actor/actress to get a voice acting gig than it is for a black person.
— Obi Arisukwu (@ObiAris) June 24, 2020
although i was disappointed in the original casting and cannot accept apology as a nonblack person, i am so grateful and appreciative to look up to someone who is willing to admit mistakes and work to rectify them. i'm happy that we can continue to learn and grow together xx
— alexa 🌈 (@lexatrexa) June 25, 2020
Love the show, love the actor. But it was good she did this. This shouldn't be a big issue in context of the shows but remember...one black character being played by a white person is taking a role from a black actor. And it's great the production team are vowing to hire one https://t.co/eODRlny5AP
— Isabella Bunny Bennett (@Bunny_Bennett) June 24, 2020
OKKKK ladies.....btw fan of both. https://t.co/SYPKVtW3gA
— SabConscious©️ (@TheSabster17) June 25, 2020
It's wild that this is still happening but good to see change finally happening. As much as I loved Alison Brie's performance as Diane in BoJack Horseman, it always struck me as odd (and even inappropriate) that she was chosen to play a Vietnamese-American character. https://t.co/ocGKjlleyp
— Dylan Martin (@DylanLJMartin) June 25, 2020
Though some felt it was too little, too late.
This is so bizarre to me. You make a cartoon character that's Black and out of all the Black actors and actresses in Hollywood, the director stops and thinks...mmhmmm let me get a white woman to play this character. How does that even make sense? https://t.co/xfYbEgUEBr pic.twitter.com/G2J3ogiXHJ
— EKOW (@EkowFresh) June 25, 2020
Should've never been there ... 🤷🏽♂️ I'm not impressed 🖕🏽
— Congo 🦍 (@King_Congo_) June 25, 2020
I'm not sure why they were voicing these characters in the first place. Plus it took them having to step down for anything to change. Crazy.
— Jenny Lou BETH (@JennyLouiseBe) June 25, 2020
stop casting white actors for black cartoons in the first place!
also Cree Summers is not the only black voice actor alive. Representation matters & there is room for all of us. https://t.co/2gb3stPHDs
— 👑 مریم (@sophistirachett) June 25, 2020
I just have to say that it's incredibly embarrassing that it took anyone in Hollywood THIS LONG to figure this out...... shout out to Jenny tho https://t.co/gDh5Tac5yP
— Fariha Róisín (@fariharoisin) June 25, 2020
The production company's for both cartoons have not made announcements yet on who will replace Bell or Slate.